Advanced manufacturing techniques, such as additive and subtractive manufacturing, allow designers and manufacturers to produce components more efficiently and enable the production of new components that could not have been fabricated using legacy methods.
However, there are technical challenges that need to be surmounted if the benefits of advanced manufacturing methods are to be applied in applications that require either fabricating very large components or that are made out of more challenging materials, like metal.
Responding to a need for these capabilities in industries ranging from clean energy to aerospace, a consortium of industry and academic experts—including Autodesk—came together to produce the Large Additive Subtractive Integrated Modular Machine (LASIMM) project, which promises the ability to 3D print the large metal structures that industry needs, while saving the end user time, money, and material compared to conventional fabrication techniques.
To learn more about the consortium’s award-winning work on the project, the essential capabilities of the LASIMM demonstrator, and potential use cases in industry and government, we sat down with David Barbosa, Product Manager for the European Welding Foundation (EWF), which coordinates the project.
Here is what he had to say:
GovDesignHub (GDH): What is the LASIMM Project? Why is it such a departure from what large metal 3D printers have been able to do in the past?
David Barbosa: The LASIMM project was a European-funded project coordinated by the EWF with a consortium comprising six companies, including the entire supply chain needed to produce such a machine, two universities and two research institutes. Bedsides EWF, project partners include, BAE Systems, Foster + Partners, Vestas Wind Systems, Autodesk, Global Robots, Loxin, Cranfield University, Helmholtz-Zentrum, Geesthacht Zentrum fur Material – und Kustenforschung and Instituto Superior Técnico.
The main goal of the project was to develop a hybrid machine capable of producing fully-finished, large scale metal parts for demanding industries such as aerospace, construction and wind power. Nevertheless, it’s not limited to those industries, as others can benefit from this type of solution. Our system can manufacture large metal parts up to six meters long and two meters wide.
Moreover, the LASIMM system is designed to have a modular and scalable framework, so it could be designed and tailor-made to the requirements of the end-users.
GDH: Why is this modularity important to industry?
David Barbosa: Industries face new challenges, among them customization and build-to-order. Manufacturing technologies need to be flexible enough to meet customer requirements without the need to develop new and expensive customized machines. The modular approach of the machine’s system architecture enables a flexible reconfiguration, making it possible to develop and assess several machine concepts.
GDH: Putting so many capabilities into one machine concept seems technically challenging. What problem is this answering for the end user?
David Barbosa: This is one of the advantages of the system because it is possible to add or remove capabilities in order to meet the end-user’s requirements.
The goal is to be part of the supply chain of high-demand industries, and for that, the system has to be ready to provide quality assured parts.
As an example, if a Nondestructive Testing (NDT) module is installed and if it detects a flaw on a part during the manufacturing process, the machine—because it can be fitted with so many capabilities—could remove it with a subtractive module that’s also installed on the machine, saving money, time and materials.
GDH: What applications would a machine concept like the LASIMM Project have in federal, state, or local government? What about in the military?
David Barbosa: The applicability of additive manufacturing is almost endless, because it is possible to give a product almost any shape desired. The technology is also progressing at such a rate that the limitations on what we can do are quickly receding.
Specifically, the LASIMM project brings to the large metal parts manufacturing industry the combined advantages of additive manufacturing and subtractive manufacturing, making it possible to deliver parts that are very nearly finished, and that dramatically reduce overall production time.
Moreover, the LASIMM system is scalable, making it possible to have a large system installed in a factory or to have a smaller version that can be shipped, allowing, for instance, efficient metal parts production in remote locations.
GDH: At last year’s Autodesk University, your project won a Manufacturing Excellence Award for industry collaboration. Why were Autodesk tools crucial to the project and fostering that collaboration?
David Barbosa: The LASIMM project would not be possible without Autodesk serving as our lead partner in software development.
Because the system is running so many different capabilities at the same time, it requires a powerful software tool to help it operate. It also gives us an intuitive way to interface with the machine.
To learn more about the LASIMM project, click HERE.